Defamation (Libel / Slander): Injured

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Defamation (Libel / Slander)

Defamation, Libel and Slander are all interrelated concepts involving personal injury to one's reputation. Libel and slander are both forms of the larger concept of defamation. Although the elements of both forms of defamation are almost identical to one and other, the key difference with the two is the fact that libel refers to defamation that can be seen whereas slander consists of oral defamatory communications.

Special rules are accorded to defamation involving public officials or public figures, where the communication is about a matter of public concern.


Recently in Defamation (Libel / Slander) Category

Ms. Yee Xiong, the University of California, Davis student who woke up in 2014 the morning after a party to find a former friend on top of her, raping her, was sued by her assailant for defamation this year. The assailant, who pleaded no contest to felony assault a few months ago, served Ms. Xiong with a defamation lawsuit on the same day he was sentenced. The action sought $4 million in damages.

The lawsuit, which was quickly dismissed by a Yuba County judge, alleged that the assailant's reputation was damaged by Ms. Xiong and her sisters as a result of Facebook posts that they made and/or shared that called him a rapist. The assailant, despite pleading no contest to a non-sex related crime, is still required to register as a sex offender. The underlying rape case was tried twice, and was set to be tried a third time, as the first two trials resulted in hung juries, when the assailant accepted a plea bargain.

Can I Sue a Website for Libel?

It’s great to be able to communicate with so many people all over the world using the Internet. But it also means that there are more opportunities for defamation, or people publishing false and injurious comments that result in damages after lawsuits.

You can sue a website for the defamatory statements it posts to a limited extent. But Facebook can’t be blamed for the inane things people say on it all the time. If someone uses the social media platform, or any other, to defame you, you can use that as evidence for your defamation suit against the insulting writer. And if, say, you are defamed on a personal or business website, then you can target the site in your suit.

Remember that viral news story about a Russian fisherman attacked by a bear but saved by a Justin Bieber ringtone? Or the college student who set his school on fire with a fireworks marriage proposal? Or how about the lonely Chinese teenagers taking cabbages for walks? Well, BuzzFeed had to get those stories from somewhere.

Those three and more came from Central European News (CEN), an agency that BuzzFeed also called “The King of Bullsh*t News.” Well it turns out CEN didn’t take kindly to that description, and is now suing BuzzFeed for $11 million, claiming the story was defamatory.

Rape allegations are serious matters for both the accused and the accuser. Even if they are disproven, the reputations of both parties remain at stake, which is why rape accusations and defamation claims seem to go hand in hand.

As evidenced by the recent Rolling Stone/University of Virginia case, these defamation lawsuits can be wide-ranging and involve parties that were neither the accused nor the accuser. And even though she's not party to the University's lawsuit, the accuser may now have to turn over documents in the case.

Can I Sue for Libel in Small Claims Court?

Theoretically, you can sue for libel in small claims court in most states. But there are monetary limits on small claims that would make this an unusual choice.

Small claims courts, as the name implies, generally handle small disputes with limited monetary damages. Some states do not allow lawyers to appear in small claims court but libel cases are difficult to prove and probably will require an expert. So for this and other reasons small claims court is usually unsuitable for a libel claim.

Is It Worth Suing for Defamation to Protect Your Reputation?

Sticks and stones may break bones, but words will never hurt you. Or will they? When someone says something that damages your reputation, it might be worthwhile to sue for defamation.

"It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it," according to Benjamin Franklin. Defamation law recognizes this. Specifically, it allows people who have been unjustly publicly badmouthed to defend their good name.

What’s worst? Getting a colonoscopy, or getting mocked while you’re passed out for that colonoscopy?

A patient identified only as D.B. successfully sued his anesthesiologist for defamation and medical malpractice after she and other doctors relentlessly mocked him while he was unconscious. By accident, he had recorded the whole conversation, and that recording has now paid off to the tune of $500,000.

Can you really sue a doctor for making fun of you?

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What's the legal difference between libel and slander?

As you may know, both libel and slander are forms of defamation -- a false statement that harms a person's reputation. To prove either libel or slander in court, a victim also needs to show that the statement was negligently, recklessly, or intentionally "published" (disseminated) to a third party.

However, there are a few legal distinctions between libel and slander, notably regarding how the alleged defamation was disseminated (written or spoken) and whether a victim must prove monetary damages as a result of the false statement. Here's a brief overview: